A contest the National Space Development Agency of Japan launched from the U.S. space shuttle Discovery on Thursday seeks suggestions for naming a teddy bear on board the orbiting ship and for concluding a poem begun by Japanese astronaut Chiaki Mukai.

Dubbing the toy bear Discovery’s “eighth crew member,” Mukai, the first Japanese to return to space, asked her terrestrial viewership on an early morning TV program broadcast from the shuttle to come up with a name for the furry passenger.

She also asked viewers to use their muse in completing a Japanese poem that begins, “Zero gravity/Makes possible somersaults/Any number of times.”

Mukai will help select the winners, and the top participants will receive space memorabilia as prizes.

NASDA says contest participants must send in their names and entries by Dec. 1 via postcard or e-mail. NASDA’s Web site can be found at http://www.nasda.go.jp

The Discovery is scheduled to return to Earth on Saturday.

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